In Sunday’s Washington Post, May 25, 2014, is a story about a Buddhist teacher/therapist who works with military veterans who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Her theory, as outlined by the Post journalist, is that keeping one’s mind on the here and now is healing.

            Focus, center on you right now, where you are, how you feel, right now, seems to sum up her approach. Question: Is this ego-centric? If you think about others or troubles you are presently facing, are you still being mindful? I suspect some will find a measure of relief while others will not.

            Perhaps being mindful is beneficial, and like everything else of course, it is debatable.      

            Mindfulness! I read this often, hear this often, after all I live in Mill Valley, California which is a bastion for Buddhist and yoga-style meditators. One of my friends at our local gym is the director of a Zen center and he and I have talked on and off over the years on the subject of mindfulness.

            Mindfulness! Sounds like one ought to be mindful. Sounds like a good thing, maybe even a virtue. Mindful of the moment, mindful in the moment; yes, a worthy goal I suppose. What if a train were bearing down of you, one would want to be mindful.

To ask — mindful of what — probably misses the point however. I don’t think it is about jumping out of the way of trains, planes, or automobiles, but it might encompass such. Seems like a koan, one of those sayings that leave a person scratching his or her head, like “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”

This is now bordering on being silly; even I know it. I am not mindless. Let me get down to it: I am suspicious that what the mindfulness practitioner means is she has discovered something very large and that those who do not practice mindfulness are missing out.

I also wonder if the call to mindfulness is not a form of Buddhist evangelism. There is a Christian type evangelism which basically looks like this: Christians speak of their gospel which may be reduced to a three part formula: Law plus Grace = Gospel. The Christian evangelist points out that the Law of Moses, whose centerpiece is the Ten Commandments of Exodus chapter 20, when read will lead the reader to understand that they have sinned and fall well short of God’s demands. Bad News. The second part of the formula is Grace, which means that though God could send the poor Law breaker to hell, He instead pardons, forgives, and saves the miserable sinner. Good News. The result is Gospel, which literally means Good News. Shocking! Instead of hell there is now heaven.

So then, is there anything of a mindful nature here? It clearly is self focused to a considerable degree and it centers on really large issues that do impact the here and now; thus it is mindful and in a large way. What is more ultimate than a present relationship with the Creator? How much more significant, hey, even mindful can you get?

Mindfulness. The impression I often get is that the Buddhist, or perhaps the Hindu yogi, those who meditate and focus on the NOW are where one ought to be as opposed to those Christian types who are thinking only about the kingdom to come with the harps, angel wings, fluffy clouds, and much more in the sweet bye and bye, which is down the road someplace and certainly not in the here and now. Is mindfulness the Buddhist version of the good news and is it superior to the Christian version. Of course, like everything else, this is debatable.

Let me get down to it right now. I am mindful that living in the now is a good thing. No question, I embrace it, but is that all there is? Since there is a future, however short or long, there is more to life than now. I confess I do not get too excited about now all the time. Sometimes now is painful, discouraging, boring and I would rather not focus on it twenty four seven. Hope is a good thing, and hope is future oriented and centers on what may or may not come to pass. But it is nonetheless not now. Is this an acceptable state of mindfulness?